Archive | January, 2012

Coming Up Short

23 Jan

It’s nearing the end of the month, and folks- it’s not looking good.  I’ve kept to my budget (mostly), so that’s not the problem.  The problem is the money wasn’t there in the first place.  The nature of my main job is that I don’t get paid until a month after I do the work.  The nature of my budget is that all the money I receive in a month (as in, in my hand or bank account, in check or cash form) goes into next month’s budget.  So, say that I earned $2,000 in November (oh, how I wish this was a real example).  I do the work in November, get the check at the end of December, and it factors into my January budget.  Now this usually isn’t a big deal, since I earn about the same each month anyway.  Except for November.

November was NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who didn’t just nod knowingly at your screens or shudder in sympathy, let me explain.  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writer’s Month.  It’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.  That means at least 1,667 words, or roughly five pages in Microsoft Word, every. single. day.  Can you see where I’m going with this?

I probably shouldn’t admit to this, since my boss reads this, but I was a bit lax in my work habits in November.  Don’t get me wrong- I did all the work that was assigned to me, but I didn’t ask for anything extra.  Couple that with a crazy schedule at the end of the month at the retail job (Black Friday shoppers- and you know who you are- I want the 10 years of my life back that you stole) and you have a recipe for a skimpy budget in January.  All told, the monthly take was about $2,065.  Tax, rent, insurance, and other life necessities added up to most of that amount.

The good news is, I won NaNoWriMo (and I’m wearing the shirt to prove it).  I wrote 50,168 words in 30 days. The next day I cut out 4,005 of those.  Two months later, I’m back over 54,000.  The best part of NaNoWriMo is that you don’t actually have to finish the novel in 30 days.  You can take as long as you like for that part.

The bad news is, I paid $150 on my undergrad loans in January.

For those of you who forgot, the goal was $961.

I’m a little short this month.

I did, however,  just got paid for some stuff I sold online, and I managed to save some cash from some other places in the budget, so there will be money left over at the end of this month to add to the payment amount.  Probably about another $100.

$250* out of $961.  I think I’m off to a great start, don’t you?

At least I have my mostly-finished novel to keep me company.

*This post will be updated at the real end of the month to reflect the actual amount paid.

January: Part I

4 Jan

I’ve called this January: Part I because it’s the beginning of the month and I have no idea where it will end, financially speaking.  I thought I’d talk a bit more about my plan for this…(what’s a suitable word for what I’m doing?  Quest?  Folly?  Adventure?  Descent into darkness?  I’ll have to come back to that. If you know of a good one, please feel free to share it in the comments section.)

First off, I realize that this… undertaking (?) requires the use of a strict budget.  For that, I’m using the Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University model.  I took this course about 4 years ago when I was in college, and it has served me very well.  When you’re like me and paid via hourly wage, it’s very hard to find a workable budget model.  The FPU has one.  Basically, you write out all your expenses each month and their associated costs (rent/ mortgage, insurance, food, clothing, entertainment funds, shoes for poor children in Africa, etc.).  Next, you organize those expenses into priorities (is food more important than seeing the newest Russell Brand flick?  Do we really need to put gas in the car or can we just hitch the family German Shepherd to the kids’ sled?)  Then, you write out how much money you actually made that month (for me, this averages around the $1500 mark).  Finally, you run your finger down the prioritized list and draw a line where the money runs out.  And you stick to that line.  (Trust me on this- it sounds scary, but there is no greater joy than telling a bill collector that they are “below the line this month.”  I’ve done it- it’s awesome.  The poor little buggers get all flustered.)

My major priorities are:

1) Tax (because as a consultant, that doesn’t come out of my paycheck.)

2) Living expenses (roof over the head, gas in the car, power turned on, etc.)

3) Eppy (the pet rabbit.  She has to have proper rabbit food or else she eats the carpet.)

4) Entertainment (Ramsey’s very clear on this- leaving this piece out will make you blow your budget quicker than anything else.  I get $30 a month.  That goes a long way when you’re a discount card hoarder like me.)

5) Student Loans

Now, you may be wondering what I’ve put student loans at the bottom of the list.  After all, isn’t paying them off the whole reason I’m writing this blog?  Yes.  Yes it is.  However, living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all the good.  It just means keeping track of where every dollar goes and making sure each amount is reasonable.  TAlso, the order of my priorities doesn’t reflect the percentage of my income that goes to each.  That list would read something like this:

1) Tax (20%)

2) Living expenses (30%)

3) Eppy (a measly 1%)

4) Entertainment (2%)

5) Student Loans (47%)

So while it’s last on the priority list, I am transferring roughly 47% of my income each month via online bill pay (.25% off my interest rate for doing so, btw.  Every fraction of a cent helps.) to a company who only knows my name when I’m behind on payments.  Man, personal responsibility sucks.

One final note- those of you who had a calculator handy might have noticed that I said my monthly income averages around the $1500 mark.  I then said that I send 47% of that to the loan company.  In my first post, I said my monthly payment goal was $961.  47% of $1500 is NOT $961.  It’s $705.  Where is that extra $251 going to come from, you ask?

Therein lies the adventure.

Also, anyone need a babysitter?  I come cheap.

What it’s all about/ New Year’s Resolution

3 Jan

I am 25 years old, I work five jobs, and I am $78,231 in debt.  Yep, you read that right.  At 25 years old, I owe almost 80k.  But before you get all “credit cards are evil & you should know better” on me, let me say this- not a cent of that is credit card debt.  I don’t use credit cards.  Rather, that impressive total is the cost of my undergrad and graduate education.

I’m not complaining here (well, maybe I am a little), because I made the choice to go to private universities and I made the choice to take on the loans.  I made those choices because I thought that furthering my education would result in a better job once I graduated.  Hang on a sec.

HA!  HA HA HA!

Ok.  So I fell for that one hook, line and sinker.  I now hold a Master’s degree from a very reputable university in a very reputable field, and a Bachelor’s degree from a small but still reputable college in another very reputable field.  I also hold five part-time jobs while those reputable degrees get left off my resume.  (True story, btw- I left my Master’s degree off my resume so I could get a job.  Twice.)

Despite this, I’m still willing to own up to my debt and do my best to pay it back.  Like I said, I took the chance on my education, and just because I didn’t end up with what I wanted doesn’t mean I don’t have to take responsibility.  So that’s what I’m doing this year.  I’m taking responsibility.

My graduate loans (totaling $66,697, and oh how I love the demonic significance in that) are currently in a holding pattern.  Apparently, I don’t make enough at my five part-time jobs (imagine that!) to be held to a minimum payment.  So, I’m going to pay $50 a month to that company to keep the interest down, and otherwise just ignore them til next year.

My undergraduate loans (totalling $11,533) are in repayment.  This means the company wants their money back, and they wanted it yesterday.  This year, they’re going to get it all back.

That’s right- my goal this year is to repay all $11,533 plus interest back by December 31st, 2012.  This means a monthly payment of roughly $961, or for those of you keeping track at home- nearly 50% of my monthly income.  Yep- this is going to be a fun year.

Each month, I’ll post how much I paid, what the new balance is, and perhaps an interesting story about why I’m $700 short that month.  Feel free to follow me- it should be a fun and increasingly desperate ride.

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